Renfrew County teachers are asking for the public’s support after they walked off the job Tuesday.
Members of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said they held the one-day strike to pressure the Ford government’s education minister, Stephen Lecce, to get back to central contract talks.
“We know that this is a hardship for parents but it is crystal clear that to date, Ford’s Education Minister Lecce is only interested in cuts to education,” said Allison Ryan, president of the Renfrew County Teachers’ Local, in a statement released Monday.
“We are asking parents to stand with us to protect the future of public education. The programs we are fighting for today will have an impact on the education of students now and in the future.”
“The government wants to cut a further $150 million from elementary education,” added Jamieson Dyer, president of the Renfrew County Occasional Teachers’ Local.
“The Ford government is trying to make education cheaper, while educators are fighting to make it better.”
Both the ETFO and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association announced last week that they would hold one-day strikes this week unless the province took action to engage in “serious talks” towards new contracts.
But in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, local MPP John Yakabuski, who is also Minister of Natural Resources and Forests in the provincial cabinet, said teachers’ strike action was “unacceptable.”
“While parents in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke are frustrated by teacher union escalation every few years, it is unacceptable that union leaders would ramp up strike action and make families across the province scramble for childcare,” Yakabuski said.
“We recognize the impact of union escalation on families is real, and unions expect hard-working families to bear the costs of their cyclical labour action. That’s why our government launched its Support for Parents initiative that puts money directly into the pockets of parents.
“The immense uptake of our Support for Parents initiative speaks volumes to the level of uncertainty union-led strike action causes.
“Our government will continue to focus on reaching voluntary agreements with the teachers’ unions, so Ontario students stay in class where they belong.”
Yakabuski said that as of Monday, January 20, the government had received 149,464 applications for the “Support for Parents” program, which will pay parents up to $60 a day for childcare costs during teacher walkouts.
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(Photo: Members of the Elementary Teachers Federation (ETFO) from Mackenzie Community School gathered Tuesday morning before holding a walking protest in downtown Deep River.)